Richmond, Va.- Sunday, November 8, 2015 - Delivered by Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D., Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
Leon, thank you for your introduction, and thank you for your participation at the school transportation safety event NHTSA held in July.
President Henry, members of the NAPT board, thank you so much for your invitation to speak today.
Let me begin by thanking all of you, and everyone involved in school transportation, for making possible this simple, under-appreciated fact: School buses are by far the safest way for children to get to and from school. Let’s repeat that: School buses are by far the safest way for children to get to and from school. Kids are safe and parents have peace of mind because of the hard work you do. And that hard work is energized by your commitment to making safety your top priority.
Safety is also our top priority at the Department of Transportation, and certainly at NHTSA. Our mission is to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce the damage done by crashes on America’s roads. And there is no area of highway safety more important to us at NHTSA than the safety of America’s children.
Safe transportation to and from school is a priority because the public we serve demands it of us – we all feel the instinctual need to protect our kids. At NHTSA, we’re loving parents, grandparents, and doting aunts and uncles too. It’s also important because of its significance to another high priority for Secretary Foxx and DOT: The need to more closely connect our transportation system to enhanced economic opportunity. Under Secretary Foxx’s leadership, DOT is dedicated to making sure that our transportation system is a gateway to opportunity and prosperity, and not a roadblock. It’s hard to think of a more important step on the ladder of opportunity than safe, dependable transportation to and from a good education.
Soon after I became NHTSA administrator in January, I began getting questions about what you all know – and I had learned while a Board Member at the NTSB – is the hottest question in school bus safety. Yes, the seat belt question. And we’ll talk a lot about that in a moment. But as I began to discuss the issue with experts within NHTSA and outside, it became clear that school bus safety isn’t just about what happens inside the bus. We lose more children every year as they’re getting to and from the bus than we do once they’re safely inside. We lose too many children who get to school by walking or riding their bikes. And we lose too many children – more than 450 each year – who die in personal vehicles on the way to and from school.
So, beginning with the event in July, NHTSA began working on a comprehensive approach to school transportation safety, one that attempts to address not just one hot topic, but all of them. Today I’d like to share with you the progress we’ve made so far and the work ahead of us.
The first thing we learned is that the foundational elements of our safety programs are an essential piece of the school transportation puzzle. From our efforts to make vehicles safer, to our fight against drunk, drugged, distracted or drowsy driving, to our innovative new program encouraging seat belt use among “tweens,” to our work with state highway safety offices on crafting effective state and local safety programs, to DOT’s enhanced focus on protecting pedestrians and cyclists, student safety begins with roadway safety.
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